Sunday, December 23, 2007

Anniversaries and Birthdays

This month has a few anniversaries. It was our second anniversary on the 9th. We went to a very nice restaurant, which I'll review in another post.

We picked up our turkey for Christmas today. It was sourced very locally, Copas Turkeys, in Cookham Dean. Copas celebrates their 50 year anniversary this year. We got a lovely free-range bronze turkey from them. If you want to see our turkey enjoying its free range life, check out the start of this BBC video. It is GIGANTIC though. It could feed the entire village, not just the 4 adults and one child who will be here. You can't see it exactly, but it's inside this box. I'm also holding my yummy complimentary mulled wine, which also helped widen the smile on my face.

Speaking of Christmas, the Queen sends a Christmas message out to her subjects every year. Another gold anniversary (50 years) this year marks how many years it's been televised. To celebrate this, this year you will be able to watch her speech on YouTube. The royal family now has their own channel there - www.youtube.com/theroyalchannel.

I think it's cool that the Queen has her own channel, but I don't think it's as cool as my channel - www.youtube.com/showem06. I'm pretty sure Lena's grandparents would agree, since nearly all the videos feature her. In fact, here's the latest one:





And of course, the big birthday today, amongst all these anniversaries was Lena's! She had a very nice day, thanks. Here she is enjoying her birthday cake.


In case I don't make another post beforehand, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

English and the Cold

A few Decembers ago, I was in Manchester for a few days. I stayed at a very nice hostel and was witness for the first time to an English phenomenon. It was Saturday night and quite cold, being December and all. I was wearing my ski jacket, but everyone else who was obviously headed out for a night on the town was dressed like it was a summer night on a Mediterranean island. The gents were in thin, short-sleeved shirts, the ladies in short skirts (the shortness of skirts in this country is another post altogether) and sleeveless tops!

Coming from a cold country, I was really in shock to see people walking around without jackets on a cold evening. Okay, sure, they weren't going to get frostbite in 10 minutes on their exposed skin, but it really must be uncomfortable. I wondered why they weren't all dead from catching their death of a cold. Over the years I have come up with a theory why they have survived such behaviour and today it was confirmed.

My theory is that the English get used to the cold by walking around in inappropriate clothing from an early age. By wearing next to nothing in cold weather, they kill off the weak ones and the strong ones survive to the age where they can go clubbing in January in mesh tops.

Today, this idea was backed up when I walked past the primary school (elementary school to my North American readers) and I saw some young boys running around outside in short pants. Short pants! On a day where the frost never left our lawn. On a day there was a fairly thick circle of ice on the water barrels at the allotment. The high for the day couldn't have been more than 2°C. I can't understand why they are wearing shorts rather than regular pants (trousers, to my non-North American readers) on such a cold day, other than for my fore-mentioned theory. Maybe there's something to it.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A New Cousin

We received news today that Lena has a brand new little cousin. Eleanor Rose was born in Australia at 7:30am local time today. This makes Lena the youngest cousin on one side of the family and the oldest on the other side. All the best to Matthew and Justine and their new daughter!

As I don't have a picture of Eleanor to share with you, here's a picture of G and his sister Claire first hearing from Matthew and Justine that Eleanor was on the way. I'm sure they are even happier today than in this picture.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Right. Absolutely.

This post is about the way English use their language. Two words and the meaning behind them.

Absolutely is a word that some Brits tend to use a lot. Absolutely is a word to back up whatever you were saying or to happily agree with another person. It reminds me of how the Germans use the word genau (meaning - exactly. Read more about the genau phenomenon here). Basically when you hear it, you can take it to mean yes and the person just wants to be a bit more emphatic about it. Be careful, because it can be used to overcompensate for the person actually being not 100% certain of the answer. As an example, there's a good quote in the movie The English Patient. The hero (Lazlo) and heroine (Katharine) have crashed their plane in the desert and Katharine is badly injured.
She asks Lazlo, "Will we be alright?"
He answers, "Yes. Yes, absolutely."
Her reply is "'Yes' is a comfort. 'Absolutely' is not."
A useful thing to remember when you hear the word.

Right is a different story. When a Brit says the word, "right" after you have made some sort of statement, it doesn't mean they agree with you. It means, "I heard you what you said and I understand the words and I'm acknowledging that you said it. However, I'm not convinced that you are correct in what you are saying but I'm too polite to immediately say so, or I need a minute or two to get over the shock of what you told me."
It usually has a certain tone to it as well. The pitch goes up on the long I sound and then comes down quickly to finish on the T. That's more the surprised acknowledgement "right". If it's a longer sound on the R and the pitch goes down the entire way, it's likely that the speaker doesn't believe you for a second or is very unhappy with what you said.

Examples:
Speaker A: "Did you know that Prince Philip is from Vanuatu?"
Speaker B: "R/igh\t" (That's news to me and I'm not quite sure what to say to you now)

Speaker A: "You have done this all wrong and you are going to have to do it again."
Speaker B: "Rrr\ight" (You're my boss so I'm not saying anything else but if I could...)


Of course, this isn't the hard and fast way either word is used. Just something I've noticed over the course of living here that seems to hold true a good part of the time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Feel the Heat

...or rather, feel the lack of heat. There was a very heavy frost last night here and tonight the temperature is supposed to drop down to -3°C or so. I'm getting a good idea of why the Victorians always wore hats to bed. Actually, that's not so true; our bedrooms upstairs are pretty comfortable. It's our downstairs that is cold. I don't mean it's slightly cool, it's Cold with a capital C. We only have single-paned glass throughout the house, plus the walls in the kitchen are only one brick thick, plus poor insulation around the drafty doors, plus no insulation in the attic, plus plus plus. This adds up to cold. The temperature this morning in the bathroom was 13°, which is a degree or two warmer than it was in the kitchen. The kitchen, as you might have worked out for yourself, is by far the coldest room in the house. Great for doing baking on a hot day - not so great for making breakfast in your bare feet on a frosty one.

We are doing what we can to keep the heat in. I have hung plastic sheeting over a few of the less-used windows and the front door. We keep the door to the side room closed to help stop the spread of cold. But if anyone has any good ideas on how to help keep the place warm, I'd love to read about them. Yes, replacing the windows with double glazing is a good idea, but not exactly a cheap idea, so some thinking outside the box would be nice. In the meantime, I shall be living by the motto of energy-conscious fathers everywhere and putting a(nother) sweater on.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Home Alone

For the first time since we moved into our new house, we are without houseguests. G's dad left yesterday and my mom left this morning. I have real mixed emotions about it. It was great having them here, especially have G's dad here to help us out so much. It was also good for Lena to have interaction with different people and for me to have the freedom to pop out for a few minutes, knowing there was someone there to look after her. There were plenty of positives.

But it's also nice to have our new home to ourselves and to really be able to "claim" it for us. I'm looking forward to us making our mark on the place, although hopefully NOT marks in the form of crayon on the walls and rugs.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Clarification

I met someone else who reads my blog and I realise that perhaps I haven't made things clear to people who don't personally know us well. We have moved, but only within the village of Cookham. And not that far even in the village! So you can continue to expect posts about life in and around Cookham from me.

I met Liz, one of the great volunteers who looks after the fantastic Cookham website. She has over 500 daffodil bulbs that are looking to be planted in places that can be seen by the public. Since we live right on a corner with a little strip of green outside our fence, I thought it would be a good spot to plant some. I look forward to seeing them come early spring. So if you want some bulbs and have a place where they can be appreciated by everyone, do get in contact with her via the Cookham website.

Monday, October 22, 2007

House to Home

We moved into the new house a couple of weeks ago and it's starting to feel more like home everyday. We had major problems with our internet connection, which is why I haven't posted recently. It was only reconnected on Friday. You should see the length of the complaint letter they are getting. 18 days without internet access is a long time in the 21st century.

We are also in the middle of a run of visitors. G's dad is here for a month, G's brother-in-law was with us for the weekend before heading into London for work this week and my mom arrives this weekend too. It's nice to have enough room to fit everyone, albeit snugly, but not as snug as before.

There are still boxes about, but only a few. It's always those last few boxes that take forever to empty. You empty the first set because it's things you need and you are full of steam to get things done. But as you get enough stuff to go about your day to day business with, you lose steam. The stuff you have left is usually things that need to find a place to be stored and that you don't use every day. So by the time you get to those boxes, you are running low on storage places, low on ideas of where to put them and low on energy. Plus the fact that you don't really need any of it too quickly, so getting it out of the box and into a permanent place in the house takes a massive effort. I'm going to try and get at least one box cleared a day this week. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Plots and Monopoly Spots Update

This is an update from an earlier post about allotments and Monopoly.

Getting an allotment was a great idea. I have really enjoyed going down there to potter about; weeding, watering and sowing seeds. G. didn't think much of the idea at the start of the time, seeing all the weeds that had to be removed. But since having had several delicious meals featuring homegrown produce, he has come around. Here's a photo montage of what has come out of my plot.

First, lots and lots of weeds came out.


These are the potatoes that came from the spuds we found in the ground from last year.


Me and just one of the many many bunches of Swiss chard we ate.

Pumpkins, bigger than my head!


Lamb steaks, with rocket, salad leaves, tomatoes and corn. Everything but the lamb was from the allotment.


Lena also enjoyed the corn.

There's actually a lot more I got out of the plot but I don't have photos. Lots of snow peas, regular peas and runner beans. Right now there's French beans growing, plus the salad, rocket, and 2 types of broccoli. I have to get some more stuff in to take up space over winter so that the weeds don't battle back. If you want to send me seeds to plant, send an email to zeebride@gmail.com and I'll pass along my address.

Knowing I want to keep up with the allotment, I went to pay for the next year at the parish office. She actually sent me away, saying to wait for my letter in the mail before paying. I don't see why it would be so complicated to take my money when I'm ready to pay it, but apparently it would mess up the system. Okay...

As for the Monopoly bit, the towns have been chosen and Cookham sadly wasn't one of them. This is probably a good thing for me, because it means I don't have to go out and buy a copy of the silly game. Monopoly is an okay game, but there are much better games out there. I'll save that rant for another day though.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Nip in the Air

Fall is definitely on its way. The air has a certain bite to it in the mornings that wasn't there before, even in the lousy cool days of summer. Fall, or autumn if you prefer, is my favourite season. I think it's related to going back to school; that it was the start of a new year. In Edmonton, one of my favourite things was how it seemed overnight the trees would turn colour and there would be these bright bright yellow leaves everywhere, lighting up the parks and streets. In Munich, it was never so sudden, it was a far more gradual process. But what I enjoyed in Munich was the length of the season, an actual season rather than at best 6 weeks and then winter in Canada. (Which reminds me of a joke. Do you know the 4 seasons in Edmonton? Already Winter, Winter, Still Winter and Construction) I don't know what I will like best about fall here in England, but I look forward to it none the less.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Home owners

Last Friday, we finally exchanged on our house. Exchange, for those who might not be familiar with the ins and outs of the process, is when we basically put down 5-10% of the purchase price of the house and both parties agree to go through with the sale. Completion is the next bit, which is when we actually get the keys to the house. That happens on October 1 for us. We have our rental place until the 12th, so that gives us a comfortable overlap to get things moved. However, we are always to hear about eager volunteers who are willing to help us move on that first weekend, October 6th and 7th...

So this is happy news for us, even if it is slightly scary, considering the sums of money involved. It may not come across much in this post, because it has been a long time since our intial offer back sometime in June to get here. But believe me, we're excited.

Anyone want to come to the house-warming party? It'll likely be the following Saturday. Contact me for details.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Stanley Spencer Gallery

Probably the most famous person to come out of Cookham is Stanley Spencer. Stanley Spencer was a painter in the first half of the 20th century. He was very attached to Cookham, spending more or less his whole life here. Lots of his art features scenes of Cookham and the house he was born and grew up in is just a stone's throw from ours. He is very much a local boy, so it's fitting that a gallery devoted exclusively to him is here. The Stanley Spencer Gallery is about to reopen, after an extensive modernisation of the premises.

To be honest, the date of reopening is still a bit vague, but they are pushing for Saturday, September 8th, 2007. I will update that date if I hear differently. In the meantime, plan on that.



I'm looking forward to seeing some of his work first-hand, rather than the small images I've seen on other websites so far. He has an interesting and fairly unique style and it'll be nice to see something of this nature that doesn't involve a trek into London. I hope this post reaches lots of people, and piques enough interest for others to check out the gallery too.

Friday, August 24, 2007

August Long weekend

This is the start of the August long weekend here in England. Notice I say England, because it's not a UK holiday, Scotland had their August bank holiday at the beginning of the month. We aren't going away mainly because we are looking after the neighbours' pets for a couple of weeks and I don't think they'd travel well. Anyways, we had our summer holiday back in July.

So to celebrate 3 days in the comfort of our home, here's a little video of Lena and I reading, taken today. She's become really interested in books recently, getting quite excited when you read to her. This is a quicker version than our normal sessions, but I kept it moving quick to hold your interest. Still, unless you really like babies or are closely related to her, you still might find it a rather long minute.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

England vs Germany - Tonight!

Germany is playing England in football today. It's taking place at the new Wembley Stadium, which opened just this year. It's a friendly game, meaning it doesn't count towards a tournament or anything. Which is just as well, as both teams are missing several of their best players.

What I find interesting is that this is the first time I'll be watching a game from the English side. In big soccer competitions, I've always cheered for Germany. I would cheer for Canada, but sadly we're pretty crap at the international men's level. Anyways, I cheered for Germany because I lived there and that was a good enough reason. But now, the shoe is on the other foot. Now I live in England. But I'm not really ready for the idea of cheering for England yet. I don't mind cheering them on when they are playing a neutral country, but Germany (along with Canada and Australia, obviously) still wins favour over them for me.

So, I'm sorry England. I know you are hoping history will repeat itself in the form of your 1-5 win over Germany in Munich a few years ago. Personally, I'll be hoping for a different repeat of history. The last game played in the old Wembley Stadium was also England vs. Germany and Germany won that 0 - 1.

Actually, I'm not that wrapped up in worrying about the result. Since it's a friendly, I'd rather just see a good game. Nice and clean with lots of skill on show. We'll see if I get my wish.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Separated by a common language

I had a couple of amusing examples of differences in the local English and my version on the weekend. I've talked about it before, but this wasn't so baby related.

We were watching a movie on the weekend, Robots. One of the female characters in the movie has rather large buttocks. In the American version, this character's name is Aunt Fanny. But as we were watching this in the UK, the name was Aunt Fan. Why the difference? Because in North American English, the word "fanny" is very mild slang for your posterior. Your sweet little grandmother would use the word. But in the UK, "fanny" is a very strong slang word for female genitals. Right up there with the "c-word", if you get my drift. So for a kid's movie, obviously they didn't want to leave in such a strong swear, but it was funny to notice it.

The other one I had recently wasn't necessarily a difference in the languages, it may have just been my lack of knowledge. None the less, I'll share it with you and my faithful readers can let me know.

I read an email from someone who was giving away some "Hardcore". This, it turns out, is what I would call "clean fill". Hardcore is broken bricks and stones that are used in laying foundations. I know this now, but at first, my mind jumped first to the conclusion that someone was giving away a rather personal collection of magazines or videos...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

General Update

I've been a bit slow posting this past month because we are trying to buy a house. I would love to post about it, but it feels unlucky to post anything before we actually have the house. In Canada, when buyer and seller agree on the price, the buyer puts down a deposit and the deal is done. In England, until the day you are actually given the keys to the house, the thing could fall apart at any time. Ours doesn't look likely to fall apart, but who knows. Since buying a house has been occupying so much of my thoughts, it's been tough to think on other topics to post about. My apologies for appearing to be slacking.

So I challenged a bunch of other allotmenteers I know online to update their gardening blogs, saying I would do the same. My big change on my allotment is I finally got around to making a compost heap. I could have gone and got a bin, but I was too impatient to wait the possible month for it to be delivered, so I decided to try the simple heap method. To give the heap a bit of shape, I started with one of our moving boxes. It's fairly large, not the 1 cubic metre that's recommended, but hey, you have to start somewhere. As it's made of cardboard, it's nice and biodegradable too, so it'll eventually lose its shape and become part of the heap as well. Anything that's biodegradable will eventually break down, but if you want to make compost fast, you can optimise the process. I've done a fair amount of reading about composting and here are some of the general tips I've pulled out.

  • Keep an even mix of brown stuff (twigs, paper, manure) to green stuff (grass cuttings, vegetable peelings).
  • If your mixture is too dry, add more green stuff. If it's too wet, add more brown stuff. It should be just slightly damp. Which yes, does seem to mean that you have to touch it with your bare hand. Gross, I agree.
  • Compost has to get to a certain level of heat to be effective in breaking things down. The smallest size this works well at is the aforementioned one cubic metre. I think 3 cubic meters is even better, but I don't think I'm likely to acheive that on my plot. If it's smaller than 1m3, it will still work but it'll take much longer.
  • If the stuff you add to your compost pile is in small bits, it'll be easier to break down. I'm tempted to use my food processor on the veggie peelings and stuff I have, but not sure I can deal with the idea of the mangy bits that weren't good enough for dinner being in my chopper.
  • You can add manure, but don't add fresh manure; it should be aged like a cheap wine. 6 months or so. Manure from vegetarian animals is recommended, not that of omnivores or carnivores.
  • Once your pile is producing heat, turn it every 3-5 days to keep giving the bacteria that produce the heat (and break down the stuff) fresh food.
  • When it no longer looks like anything you put into it and is brown and crumbly, it's ready for use.

So I'm hoping that even though my pile is relatively small, it's starting to get the right bacteria in it to give off heat. I haven't been down there since Saturday morning, so tomorrow is a big day. Compost checking, adding kitchen waste to it, picking peas, pulling up blighted potato plants and weeding are on the cards. Assuming it's not bucketing down with rain. It hasn't rained in a couple of weeks, so a good drenching like today is okay. But I'm not keen on trying to take Lena down there in the rain and also to get some work done.

Speaking of it not raining, on Saturday morning, after a week of no rain, I was talking to one of my fellow allotmenteers (I love that word by the way, it's like a non-gun-toting musketeer). He said to me in his lovely accent, "I hope you don't mind m'dear, but I took the liberty of watering your plot for you a couple of times this week". It turns out he was doing that for my neighbour's plot while she was away and so he just turned the hose onto mine too. I had only been down in the evenings that week and he's always there in the mornings, so I had no idea. I did think that the plot was holding up remarkably well for no rain. I plan on bringing him some raspberry jam to thank him. He said he didn't need any thanks, but I'd like to thank him anyways. I thought it was awfully nice of him.

Lena is getting amazingly mobile for someone who cannot yet crawl. I'll upload a video of her in the next couple of days, so stay tuned for that.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

In the Know

One interesting thing about living in Germany was how easy it was to not know what was happening in the entertainment world. Not to be wrapped up in celebrity gossip, not to know the latest funny saying from a TV show, not to even know the TV show. It wasn't a perfect vacuum of course; I knew about OJ Simpson's trials and had heard of Paris Hilton even before she came to Oktoberfest to promote her prosecco in a can. But it wasn't constant, day-in, day-out coverage of the stars.

Since German TV often didn't have the most current television shows or weren't worth watching in German (comedies are a pain to watch in German due to the fast nature of the humour and the untranslatable puns), I didn't watch many shows. In fact, I often feel that a decade of pop culture is missing from my life. I left Canada after the 3 seasons of Seinfeld. I missed the entire run of Friends. I don't regret missing them or anything, but I do feel that in ways, I've lost touch with people my own age for not being able to know and reference things like this.

Now living in the UK, I'm back in the thick of things. I knew about Britany Spears shaving her head and Paris Hilton going to jail (and leaving, and then going back again) within hours of the events happening. I know what the cool shows are and can watch them if I so choose, very easily. I'm horrified to know anything about Big Brother, but I have learnt from the radio that there are twins in the house for this season.

This new source of information isn't very useful, but it does in a way make me feel connected to the world around me. It's good to have cultural references in common, so that you can feel part of the culture. Whether I like the culture is perhaps another question...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Great Outdoors

If you are savvy enough to be reading this online, you are probably aware of the flooding in England. It's been very bad in places, but you don't have to worry about us yet. We personally won't get flooded, as we are up two hills from the Thames. There's a flood warning, but not a severe one. I haven't started stockpiling drinking water or bought a campstove for cooking on, and hopefully this won't prove to be a foolish oversight. Here are a couple of pictures from the Thames around noon today near Cookham bridge.




It's supposed to peak later this afternoon or this evening in Cookham. As you can see in the picture with the boats, it's just over the banks, but not really threatening right now.



In other news, I finally got a chance to spend some time on my allotment. With all the rain, the weeds were feeling very happy and healthy so I needed to do something about that. Here is a before and after picture of the weeds near my corn.



It's nothing exciting, but I took the pictures to show myself that yes, you can actually see a difference after a good 30 minutes of weeding.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Blackouts

The final book in the Harry Potter "saga" goes on sale tomorrow. I've already heard or read more about it than I care to already. I read something about what the last word was supposedly to be and then I saw JK Rowling interviewed by Jonathon Ross a couple of weeks ago and felt I heard too much there. Twice in the past 24 hours I was listening to BBC's Radio 1 and had to quickly turn it off to avoid hearing more. They might have just been trying to wind people up by playing a prank about reading out the ending, but I really don't care. I want to find out for myself. This is the only reason I've pre-ordered the book and hope that it arrives in the post tomorrow as planned. Otherwise I could wait a while to read it, but the chances of finding out what happened are too great. No radio, no newspaper and no current TV programs either until I finish it.

That's the media blackout for me. The other blackout is I was wondering if we were going to have power in the house today. I woke up to a thunderstorm this morning. Lightning, with the thunder less than 1 second after it, woke us all up at about 7:30 this morning. A thunderstorm at dawn!?!?! Very strange weather. Perhaps not to others, but for a girl raised on the Prairies, normally I would never expect thunder and lightning before 3pm. Along with the celestial fireworks, there is a LOT of rain. Driving through Maidenhead this morning involved driving up on the curb at one spot so as to avoid the very very deep puddle that had left one car stranded in the middle of it. There were several other smaller puddle/ponds as well. You know, I understand that England has this "reputation" as a wet weather country to uphold. But I get the picture, it rains here! Make it stop!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Back from Scotland

We're back from our little jaunt to Scotland. Sorry for not warning you about it, but I'm a bit reluctant to mention our house being deserted for over a week before that actually happens.

Anyways, Scotland was a very nice holiday, we all really enjoyed it. Both seeing interesting historic sites, beautiful scenery and also meeting several friends during the trip. Pictures should be available soon. Some observations about the whole thing:
  • A Ford Focus is okay for travelling long distances, but not the most luxurious comfort car.
  • 7 hours in the car is really pushing the limit of a 6 month old's patience. Yes, she slept for most of it, but that hour or so near the end...
  • Scottish roads for the most part are far less scary to drive on than English roads. Wider with no big hedges right beside the road, less traffic and fewer blind corners around tops of hills too.
  • Stirling Castle is really cool, especially when Elvis Presley and John Lennon tell you about it.
  • The Isle of Mull is worth a longer visit. Don't be put off by Mull being the German word for garbage.
  • The accent in the Inner Hebrides is easier to understand than the accent in the Borders.
  • All beds in small European hotels (England, Scotland, Germany, Austria) seem to only be made using a heavy duvet and a sheet. So you can either sweat and be uncomfortable under the duvet or you can shiver and be uncomfortable under only the sheet. Hasn't this continent heard of blankets?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Smoke Free England

On July 1st, England banned smoking in nearly any public place. This is of course a good thing in my non-smoking opinion. But it's funny, because it's been so rare that I've been bothered by cigarette smoke since moving to here, it won't make much of an impact on my day-to-day life. One, I don't head out to smoky places very much nowadays. Partly due to not wanting to expose Lena to smoke but more due to not being out disco dancing in clubs or late-night bars anymore. In most restaurants we haven't had much smoke and other places we've been it's been the same story. England in general, isn't a smoky place for a young family. If you want to experience smoke, go to Germany. Where, by the way, the price for a pack of smokes is far less than Britain. German restaurants are only slowly coming around to the idea of having a separate seating area for non-smokers and there are still plenty who don't offer that option. It was only in the last year or so that the main train station in Munich stopped people from smoking inside the station. It might have been very film-noir in effect, but it really wasn't very cool. That's probably the one thing that I totally do not miss at all about living in Germany.

I've also noticed that along with the ban, there are lots of ads on how to give up smoking. Many by the NHS, the National Health Service, offering advice and help on quitting. But not just them. The drugstores that sell cigarette patches and so on are also advertising more. And I bet Nicorette thinks all their Christmases have come at once with this ban. Ah well, I can't be too cynical about it, fresh air is a great benefit.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Enjoying the Arts

June 16 - July 1 is the Bucks Visual Arts event. Basically for these two weeks, many painters, potters, jewellers, photographers, etc etc from around Buckinghamshire open their studios up to the public. This is the 22nd year it's happened and apparently over 400 artists are involved. I think that's pretty impressive, getting 400 people to let the public wander around their work and creative space for 2 weeks for free. Even though Cookham isn't in Buckinghamshire, there are still a couple of artists who participate. It's a husband and wife team, Dennis and Juliette Palmer. She paints and he takes photos. They have a wonderful display of work out for you to see. They were very friendly and kind (washing off Lena's soother after she had dropped it outside) and quite happy to have us just come in for a look. They have been to some interesting places in pursuit of their art. I really enjoyed seeing the work and having a look around the place.

They are the only two artists who are located in Cookham, but there are a few others scattered about nearby, from Hurley to Marlow to Bourne End, plus many more throughout Bucks. If you have the opportunity this weekend, I really recommend you visit one or two of them. Because we can all do with a little more beauty in our lives. Want to know where the nearest studio is? Go to the Visual Images Group website: http://bucks-open-studios.org.uk/

Sunday, June 24, 2007

6 Months

We celebrated 6 months of parenthood this weekend. Champagne and homemade pizza for the dinner. I think in the future we might have a mid-year birthday party for Lena in June, as having your birthday 2 days before Christmas is tough to celebrate properly.



In honour of the occasion, I present a small selection of photos of the reason for the celebration, taken over the last 6 months.


And a fresh off the camera memory card today:

Friday, June 22, 2007

Short News

A few snippets of news in the life of us.

Lena is eating solid food, 3 meals a day now. Parsnip, carrot and potato is well-liked, as is zucchini. She is also quite adept at eating Italian breadsticks. I'll try and add a video over the weekend. At first it was tough to remember to actually feed her 3 times a day (to go from none to 3 times makes a big difference), but I've gotten used to it and she certainly doesn't let anyone forget now.

My allotment is coming along nicely. Except for any leaf crop - the slugs are winning the battle there. I tried to do some work to keep them down on Wednesday, but it's been pretty wet the last couple of days, so I don't know if there's anything left now.

Speaking of the weather, it has been wet this week. Although it's a shame really, I'm not complaining because it has eased my hay fever. I only ever get it in June, so hopefully it will tail off soon. I never had hay fever until I moved to Germany, so I would not be impressed if I find that I have more allergies moving to a new country again. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

And the final bit of news, I saw Queen Elizabeth up close and personal yesterday. Well, up close through bullet-proof glass of her Bentley. Her and her posse were leaving Windsor Castle, heading down to Ascot for Royal Ascot. It was a bit breezy and cool with showers yesterday (Ladies Day, by the way), but I'm sure she didn't get as chilly as we did on our visit. It was pretty nifty to see her, she drove down the Long Walk after our stroll along it. One thing I noticed in the brief pass as she went by is that she has lovely skin. Very nice porcelain grandmother cheeks. I hope all her grandkids appreciate them. And her of course.

And that's the week in brief.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cookham Festival

We went down to the Cookham Festival yesterday. It was a fete put on by the Scouts. I thought it was nice, even though we went down really late so missed out in some of the entertainment and tombolas (raffles to you North Americans). We had a plate of lovely Piri Piri, a spicy chicken dish. It features heavily in the following video. It was followed up by some scones and washed down with beer, so we spread the wealth about.



What I find hard to believe is that some people in Cookham think that they shouldn't bother with all these little fairs and fetes. That they are overdone. Geez, two weekends with little local festivals and they too much. Hardly a legitimate complaint if you ask me. As I've always said, some people are happier being unhappy than happy.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Present and Past Times

It was a lovely weekend just gone and I found myself missing Munich on Saturday. One specific thing about Munich. Beergardens. Beergardens in Bavaria aren't like the ones here in England. In England, if a pub has an outside space that's not on the street, they call it a beergarden. That's not a beergarden in my opinion. A beergarden is a wonderful thing when properly done. It's an area usually shaded by chestnut trees. There are rows of beer tables set up and you just pick one that suits you. If it's busy, it's very normal to share a table. You go up to the counter and buy your drink. In Munich the usual offers of drinks would be regular beer (Helles), wheat beer (Weissbier), shandy (Radler-a bicyclist, to be precise) or a wheat beer shandy (Russ'n-a Russian, strangely enough). There are usually other drinks on offer, along with short list of non-alcoholic drinks, but those 4 drinks are the main ones you'll see in a beergarden. Now this next step is what I really like. You can then head to the next counter and get some food. Or you can skip this step and eat the food you brought yourself to the beergarden. Because in a proper beergarden, you are allowed to bring your own food, only the drinks have to be bought from the operators of the beergarden. This makes it a reasonable option for everyone for an afternoon or evening out. Families, pensioners, young adults and students can afford to spend the day there, not just people with a lot of disposable income. The beers are naturally not as cheap as you could get at the store, but considering that's all you have to buy and there's no one rushing you along to buy another, it's very easy to just buy one and sip slowly at it. Well, maybe not easy to sip, as it tastes so nice on a warm day. I'd love it if I could find something similar here in England, but I'm afraid it's unlikely.

As much as I miss beergardens, England has lovely bits to it too. On Sunday I had a pleasant experience that I never had living in Germany. I went to a school fete, or fair. It was the Cookham Rise School fair and I decided to go since it is literally only minutes away from our house. It was very busy, which wasn't surprising considering the weather. Of course in Germany they have fairs too, and I've been to many of them, especially in Pullach. But this one had more of a homey feeling to it. Most of the fairs in Germany have stands that seem to all be professionally run. Meaning the local restaurants put up a stand. Maybe the Scouts will have a stand, but that will be the only one that's not done by a business. But the school fair seemed to be all done on volunteer basis, to raise money for the school. There was a stand to buy hamburgers or hot dogs and another to buy drinks, all being run by parents and family as far as I could tell. They had a wheelbarrow race course, a chance to try and shoot a goal against some the Wycombe Wanderers (see here for my post about them), a 2nd hand toy sale, a 2nd hand stuff sale, a kids' raffle and an adults' raffle, a silent auction, facepainting, plus a few other things I can't remember exactly. A lot for just a few hours on a sunny Sunday. I didn't spend long there, but I could see how someone with school age kids certainly could! It was enjoyable and I hoped they raised a lot of money.

So although summer has brought a point that I miss in Munich, it seems there's other things to fill the gap here in Cookham.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Passports and Presents

We received some presents for our birthdays this week. C. gave me an allotment gardening book and G. got a shirt. We got a package from R. & T. which had a couple of CDs and a game - Trivial Pursuit. This is an updated version; Trivial Pursuit the 90s. I thought I would have done well on this but I was sadly mistaken. A lot of the questions were very UK-based and I had no chance to know the answers. For example "Which former Olympic swimmer became Gladiator Amazon?" The answer is Sharron Davies. Why do I have no chance of knowing this? One, because despite her being perhaps a household name in the UK, she's never won an Olympic medal, so I wouldn't know her because of her impressive medal count. Two, she was on Gladiators, a show that never was broadcast in Germany. At least not the British version. About half the questions are like that. Another quarter are guessable and another quarter you could know the answer to it, despite not having lived in the UK. So in the end we did get a winner. It was fortunately all colonials playing, so we were all at equal disadvantage. If we played with a Brit, they would clean the floor with us, I'm sure.

In other news, Lena's passport returned from the Home Office and she has been given a visa to remain here. Same length as ours, 5 years. After that, we could apply for permanent residency or for British citizenship. Since 2 April 2007, applicants are required "to show that they have sufficient knowledge of language and life in the UK in order to qualify for settlement". So I'll be keeping that Trivial Pursuit game close at hand in case it comes to taking that Life in the UK test...

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Feast Day

The weather has once again turned glorious and we enjoyed pancakes with maple syrup out on our patio this morning. We are also heading out for dinner somewhere tonight, but it's being left a surprise for me. Details another day perhaps. And here is a video of Lena feasting on butternut squash puree.



Enjoy your meals today.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Pictures!

G. has put up lots of photos from the last few weeks. From his mum's visit, to my parents' visit, our trip to Devon and our big day in London visiting friends. If you want to take a look-see, click here!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Digging it up

I did a fair amount of work on Saturday on the allotment. Which was good timing, as it poured rain most of Sunday and Monday. Not really weather condusive to being outdoors, at least not when it will also involve a lot of mud.

The first crop I had sprout from the earth was rocket/arugula. I was very excited about it, but I was less excited to find slugs or birds had eaten nearly all of it. Plus with the new weeds growing up right beside it, it was tough to see what I had left. In the end I decided to call it quits and start again. So now with newspaper down for mulch, fresh weed-free compost and slug pellets strewn about, I might have some rocket again in a few weeks. The only thing that I planted that was surviving still was radishes. I'll have to head down later today and see if the newspaper stayed in place or if my fresh compost all got washed away. I can accept the fact that gardening isn't as simple as sticking in a few seeds and sitting back to reap the rewards a few months later, but too many set-backs will be discouraging. At least I can enjoy the company of the other allotmenteers. Everyone I've met has been really friendly, with a couple offers of letting me use their equipment if I need it. V's wheelbarrow has definitely come in handy several times.

I shall of course post here when I finally get something out of it that is edible.

P.S. I'd also like to thank my sister-in-law and hubbie for sending me some gardening books for Christmas. They have proved invaluable, so thanks again R and T for them!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bank Vacation Weekend

This is the Spring Bank Holiday weekend here in the UK. It's always the last Monday in May. I made my little joke in the post title because it always came up when I was teaching business English in Germany. In German, there is one word for when you take several days off out of your job (Urlaub) and another word for when it's an official public day off (Feiertag). It was confusing for them when I told them that they could call both "holiday" in English. Of course this was normally for the beginners, who really only needed to get their heads around one word. For higher classes I would explain that in Canada, you would take 2 weeks vacation, but that July 1st was a holiday (Canada Day, just so you know for your next pub quiz or trivia night). And then I would explain that in Britain they would take 2 weeks holiday and then Christmas Day is a bank holiday. A very strange concept to someone from the outside; I still have difficulty with it myself, never mind the Germans.

I mean, why is a bank holiday and not a Post Office holiday? The other difficulty the Germans had with the concept is that nearly every holiday is a Monday, rather than the actual day of the commemoration. What I mean is that in Germany, May 1 is a day off and is a holiday and it doesn't move. If May 1 is a Wednesday, that's the day the shops and offices are closed. It doesn't move to the next convenient Monday. If May 1 is a Sunday; too bad no extra day off for you; you miss out that year.

Another tough one for me is that most of the holidays (in England at least) are just days off, there's no basis. This weekend for example is officially called Spring Bank Holiday, although it's apparently originally from Whitsun (aka Pentecost) but you would never know that nowadays. I thought it was originally from Queen Victoria's birthday, but apparently not. Why would I think that? Well, because the 3rd Monday in Canada is actually called Victoria Day. And it's an official (bank) holiday. I find it amusing that the "colony" still has a day off to celebrate the birthdays of a dead monarch and the official one of the current one but the birth country of those monarchs doesn't.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A Cookham Tale

The Tarrystone Players are a local theatre group in Cookham. So named after the Tarrystone, a big rock at the end of the High Street where legend has it, people used to wait around (or "tarry") before doing some sporting competitions. During the Cookham Festival,the Players had an open-air performance of The Pardoner's Tale from The Canterbury Tales. G, my mom, G's sister, Lena and I walked down to watch it. It was a lovely evening and a fun way to pass an hour or so. Here are some pictures and a snippet of relevant text or a comment for each.

Tell us some moral thing, that we may lear
Some wit, and thenne will we gladly hear
"I grant y-wis," quoth he; "but I must think
Upon some honest thing while that I drink."


I don't actually have a bit of text for this picture, I just liked that he had his empty beer cup upside down on his head. He could be a Hasher.


More wondrous signes of empoisoning,
Than had these wretches two ere their ending.
Thus ended be these homicides two,
And eke the false empoisoner also
.


Just a comment, that the top dead guy looks a bit too enthused about encroaching Death.

And well-earned applause from the audience.

Tarrystone Players website: http://www.geocities.com/tarrystoneplayers/

The full Pardoner's Tale and Prologue: http://www.readprint.com/chapter-1770/Geoffrey-Chaucer

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Empty Nest

It's just me and Lena today; all our visitors left this morning. It's great having visitors, but it's nice to have the place back to ourselves as well. It's a tiny house, and having 5 full-grown adults plus a baby in it makes it tight. So I'm taking today to relax and to fully recover from a cold that suddenly cropped up on the weekend. To amuse you in the meantime, here's (yet another) cute shot of Lena.

I call it, "All Eyes and Soother".

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Not MIA

Just a quick filler post to let you know that I am not on an undercover mission to infiltrate into British Parliment and mind control Gordon Brown. Although I'm sure there are a few who would like that. We've been away in Devon for a week and we still have a house full of guests, namely my parents and Lena's Aunty C. In the next few days I'll have updates of my allotment, our visitors, and some pictures from a bit of the Cookham Festival. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Day at the Races

My parents are here and we went to Ascot yesterday, along with some of the girls I know from our NCT class and baby massage. It was just a regular race day, not the Royal Ascot that everyone knows about. None the less, most people were really well dressed, the ladies with hats and the gents in suit and tie. I wonder who all these people who were able to take the day to go to the races. Certainly most of them were not new mothers or retirees like us. I suppose many could be just taking the day off work or there with some sort of corporate do. But I have my suspicions that a lot of the people sitting in the boxes (rather than down on the main floor with us plebs) were the type who can afford to not to work.

Ascot was interesting and the new building since renovating is very impressive - spacious and light. But outside it was pretty chilly in the shade and that was the side where the races were. If it hadn't been so windy, it probably would have been tolerable, but with that wind, it really wasn't comfortable. So anyone heading to Ascot, I hope you have something warm to wear if it's not a hot day. That or you are sitting in a box.

Sadly, we weren't big winners at the races, but it was fun none the less. Now I can say I've been to Ascot, but I wouldn't necessarily rush to go again. Of course if someone offers to take me to Royal Ascot, I might be up for it. I'm always up for an occasion to wear a big hat.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Plots and Monopoly Spots

So I took the plunge and got an allotment. Very exciting. Actually, everyone I've talked to about having an allotment seems kind of excited about the idea too. It must be trendy. I went down there yesterday to do a bit of weeding. It's accurate to say a bit, I probably cleared one square meter out of the around fifty I have. But it's a start at least. It was funny, walking down there with my garden fork. It was like I was an angry villager, looking for a mob to join. I wonder what all the parents and children going to the Cookham Schools Prom (part of the Cookham Festival) thought of it. Probably most of them know that there are a group of allotment plots near Cookham Rise school. At least I hope they know and didn't just think I was trying to add colour to the village by walking around in my purple-flowered rubber boots and pitchfork...

In other news, Hasbro is coming out with a new "Here & Now" UK Monopoly edition. People can vote on what places get to be spots on the board. There's a chance for even little places to get onto the board as wildcards. So go here and vote for Cookham! http://www.monopoly.co.uk/vote.aspx

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What's in a name?

What's in a name? That which we call my last name would be just as difficult for the English to spell. Which is particularly funny, because it's a very common Scottish surname. Yes, there are many variations of it, and yes, it's not spelled the way it sounds. But honestly, I've had more misspellings of my name here, on this tiny island where the origin of the name is a mere 1000km away, than I ever did in Germany where the name is not well known. I guess it's because in Germany I would spell it out using the German phonetic alphabet so there could be no mistaking how it was spelled. It took me ages to get used to it, as it's totally different from the "Alpha Bravo Charlie" of the English-speaking system. The Germans use German first names (for the most part) instead, so it starts off as "Anton Berta Caesar". So for example, old Tony would say "Berta Ludwig Anton Ida Richard" to spell his last name. Or I live in Caesar Otto Otto Kaufmann Heinrich Anton Martha. When I first heard it, someone would be spelling something to me on the phone and rattling off these words at a million miles a second and I would think they wanted me to write these words, not realising they were using them to spell something. The Germans use this spelling alphabet far more than any English speakers do. It's quite useful, once you finally get used to it. For one, my name was never misspelled after I learnt the system. Maybe I should try the same with the English. Canadians never had trouble with the name either by the way; it's a far more common surname where I came from in Canada than it is around these southern regions of England.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I'm Famous!

Well, perhaps not famous, but I received two bits of recognition for my blog today. One, on the Cookham discussion forum, someone said mentioned my blog and said that I'm "obviously quite a bright spark". Thank you, that's very kind of you to say. I sometimes feel more like the burnt ember, but glad to know I come across more as a bright spark.

Two happened in person. The Cookham parish phoned me up regarding my enquiry as to an allotment, telling me to come down and pick up a map to the allotments and then go and pick one out. I headed straight out, eager to see what awaited me. I got the map and went over to the allotments. There was a woman working on one of the plots, so I said hello and started talking to her about the plots and asking lots of questions. She was very helpful in recommending which plot to choose, as there were a few different ones available. I started to tell the saga of who I was (Canadian, married to an Australian, used to live in Germany, blah blah blah) and she turned to me and asked, "Wait, are you the blogger?" I was tickled to meet someone from Cookham who actually reads my blog. It really made my day. So an especial hello to C and thanks for being so helpful and friendly this morning at the allotments. I think she is looking forward to seeing my posts about the allotment. I'm pretty sure the first few will be mainly moaning about how sore my body is from turning the soil, but I'll try and keep it to a minimum.

Soon I'll be recognised everywhere I go and I'll have to start wearing sunglasses to escape the paparazzi. Well maybe not but as I said, the recognition was nice.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Remembrance of times past

I just was suddenly transplanted back to Germany whilst watching TV. One of the video channels is doing a 90s classic video hour. This alone is enough to bring back memories of Munich, as I lived there for nearly the entire decade, and certainly did my share of dancing to pop music then. It's amazing how a piece of music or a smell can remind you so strongly of another place and time. But what really brought back Germany to me is that they showed an M People video that was filmed in Berlin (Don't Look Any Further if you really want to know). It was out in 1993, the first year I went to Germany. And one specific little shot that transported me back to that year. They had a very short picture of the Ampelmännchen.


Ampel is the German word for traffic light. And Mann is German for man. If you put -chen at the end of a word, it makes it a small version. Like in English when you put a -y sound on something, eg. doggy, kitty. So Ampelmännchen means "little traffic light man", which is exactly what it is. It's the figures on the pedestrian light at an intersection which show you when to walk or to wait. West Germany has the boring normal one, which is just a skinny stick figure, sort of like what they use to illustrate the Olympic sports. But East Germany has/had a much much cooler set of figures:


Aren't they great? Full of character with that stout body and hat. I really like the green one, walking off with purpose and with his hat set at a jaunty angle, ready to face the world. Not to slight the red one, he manages to show that you should wait without making you feel that you are being preached to. And who wouldn't want to wait, to stride across the street with the green man, pretending you are wearing a hat that is set at a jaunty angle?

I first saw them in February 1994, when I went on a week tour of eastern Germany; visiting Leipzig, Halle, Dresden and Berlin. Seeing them again on TV, especially after hearing music from the time period as well, brought that moment in time and place back to me. It was a very Proustian moment.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Photo Updates

Just a couple of photos from our grand day out at the Thame Spring Show. Next time I think I'll have to take my camera, as G didn't get many pictures. He claims it's because he didn't have his "big lens" with him, but I'm not so sure. I think he just didn't find the animals as interesting as others did. I know at least one person who would have liked some close-ups of the hamsters in their castle.

Lena and Gramma watching the fun dog race. Well, Gramma was watching it, Lena was watching the grass grow.

One of the scurry drivers, waiting her turn. The counterweight passenger sits on the little seat behind her.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fun things to do with small children

This post has nothing to do with our move to England. But it's funny. There is a bit of harsh language, so you might want to take older adults out of the room.



After the fun of recording Lena when she was angry, I know what I have to look forward to.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Springing into Action

I have to give the English credit - they do a good Spring. The end of Fall that I experienced wasn't anything spectacular and Winter was a wimpy affair. But Spring is here and it's very very nice. There are flowers everywhere, the sun is shining, the air feels soft, I even saw lambs gamboling in the fields yesterday. It really is nice around here. It's so nice, I'm even considering spending more time in the great outdoors by renting an allotment. An allotment is a patch of ground that you rent from the local council to use as a garden. Most people grow vegetables, although there are some flowers amongst the mixtures too. I phoned up the Cookham parish council and rent for a "5 pole plot" will cost me the great sum of 5 pounds per year. I think I can afford that; even if I only get one line of carrots out of the thing, it won't be much of a waste of money. What's a 5 pole plot you ask? So did I. It's apparently an ancient measuring system that has been kept around to refer to allotment sizes. Must be from the same person who came up with the idea of measuring your weight in rocks. A short Internet search leads me to believe it's roughly 10 by 10 metres, so plenty big for plenty of back-breaking labour if I have to turn the soil. I'm keen in theory, but I'm not certain if my keenness will continue in practice, but as I said, at 5 pounds a go, it wouldn't be the end of the world if slugs ate all the lettuce, would it?

In other news, we went to Thame Country Show yesterday. It was interesting, very much a country thing to do. Lots of demonstrations of hunting with spaniels, with falcons, with spaniels and falcons together and even hunting with ferrets. We missed the ferret hunting demo, so I'm afraid I can't tell you how to do it. But the falcon display was pretty cool. The falcon came shooting in from a great height like a rocket, she was very impressive. There was a rabbit judging contest and the winners were out on display in a tent. Who knew there were so many different types of rabbits? Hamsters too! There was a chance for people to show off their own dogs' skills, which was quite amusing. The one event we saw was a retrieving contest. The owner held the dog (a black Lab) while the organiser put 3 balls around the course. He showed the dog where all 3 balls were as he did it and then when they were down, the dog and owner went out to get them. The owner could help by encouraging the dog to the direction of where the ball was, or by showing the dog the tunnel to get into the fenced off part where the ball was. Of course, being just an average dog, it did a pretty average job at retrieving. Meaning it remembered where the last ball was put, but not the first 2; so it took a fair amount of animation from her owner to get all three balls. There was also scurry driving, which was something I hadn't seen before either. Two little ponies pull a cart with a driver and rider through a set course as fast as possible. The driver obviously steers and the rider is there for leverage to help make tight turns. It's pretty fast and exciting, well worth a watch if you get a chance. There were also lots of stands selling all sorts of things, food products to binoculars to straw baskets to folding chairs. Everything you need for life in the country. I enjoyed the show quite a bit and it made for a nice day out. There is another big Thame show in the Fall, with lots of judging of prize-winning cattle, potatoes, cakes and that sort of thing. Not quite the same idea as this show, but I might keep in mind for us for later anyways. As C'lonials, we should take these opportunities to get to know the Brits and their ways and their award winning strawberry jams.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

100th Post

This is my 100th post on this blog. In honour of this special occasion, I present 3 Lena videos. All filmed on the same day.

This first video was just as we got up.


Being the cruel mother that I am, (it's not only step-mothers you know), I filmed my child crying. She wasn't seriously upset, and it's cute. Well, me and my twisted sense of things thinks it's cute.


But she soon cheered up and started singing and dancing on cue.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Review: The Hinds Head in Bray

We visited The Hinds Head for lunch a while ago. We went fairly late, around 1:30pm. They are open for lunch until 2:30 though, so it wasn't a problem. As it wasn't very busy, we sat in the bar section rather than the restaurant. Although the restaurant has only been open since 2004 in its current form, the building is well over 500 years old. It has the look of an old pub about it, with all the timbered ceilings and wood panelling, though of course it's in better shape than its 500 years would lead you to think. Heston Blumenthal owns The Hinds Head. He's a pretty famous chef here in the U.K. and runs a 3 star Michelin restaurant which is basically next door, The Fat Duck. I think they even share a kitchen or stores or something with The Hinds Head. As another bit of interesting trivia, Prince Philip had his stag night at The Hinds Head in 1947, before marrying (then) Princess Elizabeth.

I had Lancashire Hotpot and my companion (isn't that how all restaurant reviewers refer to the person they eat dinner with? My "companion". A nice neutral term which leaves you to wonder what sort of relationship they have. Wife-husband? Business partner? Homosexual affair?) had Skate Wing with Capers, Lemon and Parsley. The bartender warned me that the hotpot had an oyster in it when I ordered it. I was a bit bemused by this, as having never eaten a Lancashire Hotpot, I wouldn't have known whether this was usual or not. I told the bartender as much after the meal, and he let me into a bit of the history of the Hotpot, saying that oysters used to be a regular ingredient in it, since they were cheap for people to use. The Hinds Head tries to keep the food as traditional as the pub is, hence the oysters I guess.

As I said, I'd never eaten Lancashire Hotpot before, but it was pretty good. The oyster in it did seem a bit odd, but it was okay. My companion's skate wing was excellent though, I'll probably order that next time if it's still on the menu. I don't know if it changes, but I would hope there's a bit of seasonal variety to it.

So my rating:
Ambiance: 2 I like the old Tudor look of the pub. As I didn't see the restaurant bit, I don't know what it's like, but the pub part was good, even if near empty. Not smoky, a big fireplace (not lit, but obviously working) and timbered walls and ceilings. Although it fits with the atmosphere, the slightly wonky table that tilted slighty on two legs took away a bit.
Service: 3 The bartenders and the personnel who brought the food were all very friendly, but in a laid-back, non-interfering manner. I thought the bartender knowing the history of the traditional food was a great thing, not seen in nearly enough restaurant staff.
Food: 2.5 Our mains were excellent, but I didn't think much of their Triple Cooked Chips. They seemed pretty ordinary to me.

So a strong rating of 7.5 out of 9 for The Hind's Head. We will be back again.

The Hinds Head website: http://www.thehindsheadhotel.com/index.aspx

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Beergardening in Munich

Some pictures from our biergarten visit back in March. Not everyone's picture is here, but stay tuned, they should be up on our website gallery soon enough.

Kathie cuddling the kid.
Katie cuddling the kid.
Katrina cuddling the kid. (do you see a trend here?)

Phil and myself. It was Phil's brilliant idea to go to have a slackers' beer garden visit. Thanks Phil! It was chilly, but fun.


Nicola giving us tips on how one truly disciplines children.


Maybe this is more like it...
I would like you to note two things in this photo. One, all the Hashers are looking rather spiffy, which is not a usual state for them. Two, note all the beer glasses, (Maß) which is a normal state for Hashers.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

General Update

Sorry I haven't been updating that much recently. The cold we caught in Munich really hung around for a long time. G's mom (he says I should write "mum", but this is my blog, so I will use my terminology, thank you very much) is away right now, visiting Wales and Ireland, so fortunately she's avoided us and our illness for the most part.

Lena had her second set of shots this past Thursday. They affected her more this time than the first. She was pretty grouchy all of Thursday and Friday but seemed better today. I showed the nurse the information I found about the Meningitis vaccine and Pneumococcal vaccine not to be given at the same time. She read it and just said that she hadn't experienced anyone having problems getting both at the same time. Good to know that in her vast clinical research, it's okay. I'm still not going to get them at the same time and will bring Lena to get the Pneumococcal in 2 weeks, so they won't be given at the same time.

In other news, we are house-hunting. We've decided we're going to try and buy something rather than rent. If housing prices continue to rise at their current rate; after 2 years we'll be better off owning rather than having rented that entire time. Of course, there's no guarantees that prices will go up, but as the Germans say, "No risk, no fun". Not that losing a big chunk of money on declining house prices would be fun, hahaha, no. We're looking mainly in Maidenhead, because as much as we like Cookham, it's too expensive for what we want. On average, for a 3 bedroom place, it's about 50 000 to 100 000 pounds more than buying in Maidenhead. That's a big lot of money for the luxury of village life. Heck, for that kind of money, we can get a taxi to take us down to Cookham and back every time we want to visit. And we could drink very expensive cognac on each trip too. So it's likely Maidenhead for us, unless someone out there really wants us to stay in Cookham and makes us an offer we can't refuse. (no horse heads in beds, please)

We've looked at around 10 places so far. We looked at this amount so that we had a base to know what the standards are. Being new to the country, nevermind the area, we needed to get that base so we would know when there was something good at a good price. Now that we have that base, we can now start to be a bit discerning and actually start choosing. Stay tuned for more on the topic in the future.

Finally, does anyone know where I can buy plain vinegar in England? Not malt vinegar, not pickling vinegar, not white wine vinegar, not red wine vinegar, not cider vinegar, not balsamic vinegar. Just plain vinegar. I want it for cleaning around the house and helping with the laundry and for the life of me, I haven't found it in any shop. My kingdom for some vinegar!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Silly little camera

I bought a little video camera to take videos of Lena. A couple you have seen, as I put them up on the web. Unfortunately you won't see any more for a while, as it seems the cheap little video cam really was cheap and crap. Vivitar is the manufacturer, and it's a Vivitar DVR-510. Basically, it won't turn on. Even with fresh batteries. What a piece of junk! Now if I was back in Germany, I would just send it back to the guy who sold it to me and demand my money back. Because in Germany, all goods sold automatically are guaranteed for 2 years. What was this, 2 months maybe? Now, if it turns out that it's simply the brand-new Duracell Plus batteries that I bought which are at fault, I'll take it all back.

Hmm, upon fiddling a bit with it here beside me, it seems that it might not be totally broken after all. It seems it turns on about 20 seconds after pressing the button. And about another 15 seconds after that, the screen lights up to enable you to actually do something. Well, that makes me happier than I was 10 minutes ago, but it's still going to be annoying if it takes half a minute to get the thing to working level. Okay Vivitar, I won't plot to destroy you and your factory just yet, but you had best start making slightly higher quality goods...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Things Missed

We had a great little trip to Munich. Lena was a trooper, not making much of a fuss no matter what situation we put her in. Whether it was being mauled/hugged/kissed by two older pre-school boys, staying up waaaaay past her bedtime or getting her to sit through an entire concert of music, she hardly cried at all. I will post some pictures and a longer post once I shake the cold I took back as a souvenir.

Being back made me realise there are a few things that I do really miss about Munich/Germany.
  • I mentioned this a bit before. Saying hello, aka "Grüß Gott" when I walk into a shop. And also having the shopkeeper or cashier wish me a nice weekend as I walk out of the shop. It's just the same as the "Have a nice day" that some people find superficial, but hey, it's still better than being wished a car accident to befall you.
  • I miss having a bakery on every other corner with lovely little pastries to buy.
  • I miss really good public transport. We haven't had the need for it so much here, since we don't know so many people. But in Munich we travelled a lot with trains and trams and buses and it was easy, even with the stroller.

I miss all these things, but I still don't think it was as tough a move as it might have been. I think I was right when I talked about it before, that because both the move and the baby came more or less at the same time, it wasn't as difficult a change as if only one had come along at a time. For example, if we didn't have a baby and moved here, we would often be at a loss of what to do on weekend nights. That's far less an issue with a baby. If we had had Lena in Munich, most of our friends, who are for the most part single or at least childless, would still be doing their thing like watching the rugby six nations in a smoky busy pub. And we couldn't take part in that either. So in a way, doing both at once is easier. The people we are meeting now tend to be in the same life situation as us, new parents, and so are in the position to do the same things as us too. Going over to someone's house for dinner is pretty exciting, as compared to how going to a restaurant or a club used to be the thing of excitement.